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Editorial: Say thanks for frontline workers in battle against virus
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Staff don full PPE at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville while working May 15, 2020, on the COVID-19 area of the hospital. - photo by Scott Rogers

For many of us, Thanksgiving Week serves as an opportunity to reflect upon those things for which we are truly thankful.

Near the top of everyone’s list this year should be a very specific group of people — all of the men and women who work in the field of medicine whose professional and personal lives have been battered for months by the realities of COVID-19.

Early on in the pandemic, there was a lot of attention paid to nurses, doctors, EMTs, hospital workers and others in the medical arena who were recognized as the frontline heroes battling a difficult and unpredictable disease. But as often is the case, the passage of time has allowed the enormity of the task faced by those in medical careers to be taken for granted.

As a nation, we all are suffering from COVID fatigue, but none so much as those who are tasked with dealing day after day with the physical and emotional suffering inflicted by the disease on patients and their families.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

It is easy for us to forget that those for whom the practice of medicine is a calling also have to worry about their own personal lives, even as they try to counter the ravages of the disease professionally. On top of the physical exhaustion and mental strain that comes from dealing with patients, those in the field also must juggle the same challenges as the rest of us — remote schooling, sick family members, forced quarantines, economic hardships, and the harsh reality that they often are forced to put the needs of others ahead of their own families.

As you contemplate your blessings during the period of Thanksgiving next week, pause for a special thanks for all those who have worked in such incredibly difficult circumstances to provide medical care this year. The enormous task they face shows no signs of subsiding anytime soon, and we will forever be in their debt.

For all that those in the medical field have done so far this year, their biggest challenge may yet be ahead. The COVID numbers are worsening rather than improving, and there is plenty of reason to believe that things will get even worse in the next few weeks, as the holiday season tempts us all to forego the safety precautions that have been shown to be most effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

To that end, the CDC has issued recommendations for Thanksgiving that remind us all of the importance of limiting the size of gatherings, socializing only with immediate family members, restricting travel as much as possible and being diligent with wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitation.

The current spike of cases has affected most of the nation. President Trump’s coronavirus task force said Sunday that 48 of the 50 states are now in the “red zone” designation that signifies increasingly high instances of the disease. Confirmation of positive test results, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing across the nation, and while Georgia is doing better than most states, it definitely is trending in the wrong direction again.

It is easy to get lost in the numbers, and hearing them so often can result in a sort of numbing effect for many of us. But the math cannot be denied. This unpredictable disease has very little effect on most people, but it is deadly or debilitating for others. The country’s death toll is likely to eclipse 300,000 before the end of the year, and many of those who survive the disease will have lingering issues related to COVID that last long after a vaccine is available for use.

What has to be especially frustrating for those who have been fighting the disease in the trenches of medical care is the knowledge that there are things we can do as individuals to lessen the severity of the pandemic for all, and yet many refuse to do them anyway.

We do not have to shut down the national economy in order to take reasonable precautions on an individual basis. Being asked to show concern for each other is not akin to being forced to forsake basic freedoms guaranteed in our nation’s constitution. Voluntarily wearing a mask in public is addressing a medical concern, not a political issue.

As we go into what promises to be a most unusual week of Thanksgiving followed by an extended holiday season that will be unlike any this nation has seen in more than a century, we should all take time to say a special thanks for the caregivers, not only for all that they have done, but for what they likely will be asked to do in the weeks to come.

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we should all commit to do our part as individuals to try to help fight the virus, so that next year we will have many, many more blessings for which we can be thankful.

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